Two cougars have been euthanized in the Columbia Valley, following sightings in several local communities and across the province.
Pets such as cats, dogs and, in some cases, poultry have been reported missing and have been linked to cougar sightings as well.
“There have been a couple dogs, cats and chickens that have gone missing,” said Invermere-area conservation officer Lawrence Umsonst.
“However, pet disappearances are not necessarily linked to cougar sightings. They could also be due to coyotes, cars, and other natural occurrences.”
While it is not uncommon to spot cougars in some areas of the valley, reports indicate that the sighted cougars are young and are not necessarily fearful of humans or human properties.
“The reports say that the cougars are very brazen and not afraid of people,” said Umsonst. “They have been sighted lying on lawns, watching cars go by.”
According to Umsonst, cougar sightings have occurred mainly from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., and between 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., and the cougars appear to be young.
“We received a 3 a.m. call in Edgewater, somebody had saved their dog,” Umsonst explained. “They had gone to call their dog inside and two young cougars had been in the backyard, stalking the dog, trying to hunt it.”
One of these two cougars was located and euthanized when officers arrived on scene.
“We had to take action in a situation like this,” said Umsonst.
Another occurrence came the morning of August 21, when a report was called in that a sighted female cougar had killed a sheep in Fairmont. This cougar was also euthanized.
“You can sight cougar any time of the year,” Umsonst explained.
“However, right now nearing the fall season, a lot of young fawns are out and about for cougars to hunt, and it’s not necessarily unusual to hunt them if they are in communities.”
In some cases, however, cougars are sighted, reported and monitored, and may pass through a community without conflict.
“The problem here, though, is that these young cougars should be able to hunt the young deer,” Umsonst explained. “They should be able to fend for themselves with the wildlife around them, but they do not have the hunting prowess well enough to hunt these deer, so they are hunting easier things, like pets.”
House cats in particular are prime targets for young cougars, and Umsonst says he’s spotted many felines roaming beyond their homes while on patrol in Edgewater.
As for the “brazen”, no-fear approach the young cougars are taking to humans and human properties, Umsonst said it is not entirely unexpected.
“I think people under-estimate how often wildlife sees people,” he said. “What was the case 50 years ago is not now. Wildlife like bears and cougars are losing the fear. They can be elusive, but they see people hik
targets for young cougars, and Umsonst says he’s spotted many felines roaming beyond their homes while on patrol in Edgewater.
As for the “brazen,” no-fear approach the young cougars are taking to humans and human properties, Umsonst said it is not entirely unexpected.
“I think people under-estimate how often wildlife sees people,” he said. “What was the case 50 years ago is not now. Wildlife like bears and cougars are losing the fear. They can be elusive, but they see people hiking, mountain-biking, and things like that.”
It is advised that residents keep pets such as cats indoors as much as possible and keep a close eye of them in parks and backyards. If you see a cougar first-hand, or any other problem wildlife or environmental enforcement concern (such as poaching, or an injured animal), please call 1-877-952-7277.
• Should you encounter a cougar …stay calm and, if children are with you, pick them up and keep them calm as well. Sudden movements, or turning your back and running away, could provoke an attack.
Keep the cougar in front of you and back away slowly, making sure the cougar has a clear avenue of escape.
Make yourself appear as large as possible and respond aggressively by making a loud noise or baring your teeth to show that you are a threat and not prey.
• Roaming pets can be easy prey for cougars and should be kept leashed or behind a fence.
Bring your pet in at night, or confine your pet to a kennel with a secure top if they are to be left outside. Don’t feed the pet outside, as the pet food might attract young cougars, or other small animals which cougars prey upon.
• Keep children supervised and playing in groups outdoors. Consider erecting a fence in a child’s play area and keep a radio playing, or have a dog keep watch, as dogs can hear, see and smell a cougar sooner than a human.
Source: BC Ministry of Environment